The benefits of studying Humanities

Are social sciences a waste of time and money? Many believe that this is the case and that degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics are more likely to lead to a higher earning job and greater success in a world that is becoming increasingly technological.

But this is simply not true. When we talk about Social Sciences and Humanities we mean subjects such as History, Politics, Philosophy, Literature and Economics. Subjects which have at their core questions about human society and human history.

The truth is that there is a huge demand for Humanities and Social Science graduates. According to research conducted by New College of the Humanities, 60% of industry leaders have an Arts or Humanities degree and 65% of Government officials in the UK have a Humanities degree.

But why is this figure so high? Essentially being in any management position, whether it’s in a business, school, charity or government, requires a deep and careful understanding of other people. Steve Jobs, for example, didn’t have much knowledge of electronics when he pioneered the Apple computer. Instead he knew how to lead and motivate others. Founder of the global Virgin Group, Richard Branson, famously knows little about technology or maths. He even struggles with basic accounting techniques such as the difference between Gross and Net Profit. But the key to his success is his understanding of people and how to manage them. And the trend continues with political leaders, very few of whom have a Science or Mathematics degree. As someone once argued, it is better to have a leader who understands their country’s history than one who has an in-depth knowledge of science but no awareness of the past.

In 2013 Google conducted a study into what its own employees consider valuable personal qualities. They found that among the eight most important qualities of their top employees, science and maths expertise came in last place. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; understanding other points of view; having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

These qualities are perhaps more readily found in Humanities graduates than Science graduates. On top of this Google are actively hiring graduates with an understanding of ethics and philosophy. Why? Because in a world where Artificial Intelligence is looking likely to dominate, we need people who understand questions about humanity, morals and ethical decision making.

All this should come as comfort to those who love the social sciences and humanities but are afraid for the job prospects. Evidence suggests they’ll be successful.

At Cherwell College we help all students find the degree that is right for them, taking into account their own strengths, weaknesses and ambitions. We do not force people onto a degree that is not suitable but use our own expertise to match the right course to the right student.

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